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why 1998 was the best year ever

It's time for me to do what they call in twelve-step groups a  "geographic".   A geographic refers to when you move somewhere else to avoid any uncomfortableness in your current life, instead of dealing with the problem head-on.  It's when you are certain your life would be better if only you lived somewhere else.  But then there is the catchy phrase "Wherever you go, there you are."  In other words, you bring all your emotional baggage with you.  As you can imagine "geographics" are often frowned upon.  But I have extenuating circumstances.

My live-in boyfriend and I broke up six months ago but due to the insanely high rents (that continue to skyrocket) in my area, neither one of us could afford to move out locally on our own.  So we both stayed put until we decided where to go and what to do.  Needless to say, it was pretty uncomfortable at first.  We both had a lot of rage and resentments and general irritation with each other.  The first few months were tough but we have settled down and the last couple months haven't been too bad.  But not ideal.  I am desperate for my own place and what we both really need is to go back home - him to England me to New England.  Both places are exceedingly less expensive to live in.

When I say "home" I am referring to the place where I lived from ages 3 months to 11 years old, a small town in Massachusetts. It's the same place I moved back to in 1997, when I rebooted my life and was reborn the following year.  I grew up there as a kid and but as an adult I am referring to getting sober.

In the Fall of 1997, I dragged my then husband from our life in Palm Springs CA to the Boston area only to break up with him shortly after getting there - and yes I still feel guilty about that.  I already had a drinking problem and in my new single-gal apartment all I did was isolate and drink.  I barely knew anyone in the area and I only left the apartment to get booze and food.  I wanted to stop, I wanted to change, but I felt out of control and unable to.  Perhaps there had been times in my life where I drank more (my wild early 20s) but this time my life felt like complete chaos.  Or at least chaos inside my head.   I couldn't not drink.  I couldn't pick up the phone to call anyone.  I couldn't go out and enjoy the gorgeous area I had been longing to move back to for forever.  Everything was obscured in the grinding misery that was my obsession with alcohol.  If I wasn't drinking I was thinking about drinking.  That is until I ran into a local guy, a fellow alcoholic, who I was immediately and immensely drawn to.  It was like fireworks, baby - another addiction.  He had been to a few AA meetings and even though he talked of them fondly and with enthusiasm, he was still drinking.  Then shortly after the new year (1998!) he got in a drunk-driving accident and hit his bottom.  He was going to go back to AA in earnest and because I had almost been in the car with him I decided that his wakeup call would be my wakeup call and I went to my first AA meeting.

My first meeting was overwhelming in an out-of-body experience kind of way.  It was also magical.  The group (named Norwell New Hope) read from a book that described the 12 steps in detail and I swear it was like reading a story that was all about me.  To say I could relate would be an understatement.  I was nervous as hell, jittery and jumpy but when several of the women in the group came up to me after the meeting and gently offered me their phone numbers saying "call me", I somehow managed to keep it together.  They hugged me and told me the best meetings to go to, all with the utmost sincerity and compassion.  I drove home that night bawling like a baby because I felt as if I had finally come home.  For so long I hated myself for my drinking but now here were people who accepted me and cared for me unconditionally.  That was the end of my drinking and isolation and the start of the best year of my life.

For some drunks, the first year of their sobriety is a hell second only to that of their time drinking.  Their craving for alcohol isn't automatically lifted just because they decided they've had enough.  Fortunately for me, this wasn't true.  It was precarious, but mostly my urge to drink was lifted.  That was part of the magic for me - a big huge gift from The Universe that made me believe there actually was a power greater than myself.  I had to relearn how to do everything sober and sometimes it was scary, but the real fun began when I started making sober friends.  I discovered that sobriety can be anything but dull and boring.

My new friends and I did stuff together outside of the meetings like going to the beach, or a concert in Boston, or even sober cruises where we danced our asses off.  I had a bff in the program named Karly and we drove to meetings together, sat together, and went out to eat either before or after the meeting together.  We were joined at the hip and explored new meetings in far-flung areas, on the lookout for cute guys.  It was recommended to me to not date until I had a year of solid sobriety under my belt because it would distract me from my primary purpose of learning to stay sober, but that didn't mean I couldn't look!  At times not dating was harder than not drinking but I figured any excuse that got me to a meeting couldn't be bad.  It was all in good fun, and my life improved immeasurably.

found a group of post-menopausal aged women with long-term sobriety who took me under their collective wing, showed me the ropes of the program and taught me how to respect myself.  The "Steel Magnolias" they called themselves, and they were the love and beauty I had been seeking.  They smelled powdery, had weathered skin, and were the first true comfort I found since moving back there.  As a group, the Steel Magnolias cast their immeasurable wisdom, grace, and spirituality on us all.  I borrowed their self-confidence and they gave me the courage and support to finally get a job.

In February 1998 I started work at a shop downtown that sold upscale, excruciatingly hip women's clothing.  The other women that worked there were my age and we formed a tight-knit group.  In the shop we played all the 90s boy bands and Britney's first album, and Janet Jackson and Brandy.  It was the perfect upbeat soundtrack to my life.  In addition, I got to know a lot of the townspeople who stopped by to shop or often just to chat (and gossip!).  Our UPS guy Tim was a daily visitor and we always flirted but I grew quite close to him as well.  He would bring me treats like a flower or magazines to read when it got slow.  I was now a bonafide member of two communities:  the local town and the local AA.  I had never experienced anything like it before and in many ways I never felt better.  It's like I said in my last blog post, what matters most to me in this world is love & connection.  In 1998 I had that in spades!

Of course being newly sober I was still nuts but my friends kept me in line.  And my therapist at the time suggested my drinking was a form of self-medicating and now that I wasn't doing that anymore maybe I needed something legit to help me out with my moods.  She felt I was struggling more than necessary. Thus I went to my first psychiatrist and got my first psych meds which helped me to feel better too.  Life wasn't perfect but it was the best it had ever been.  The only drawback was the brutal New England winters.  They made me awfully depressed and one winter I finally decided I'd had all I could take of them and moved back to California.

Nowadays, the Boston area rents run about $1,000 less a month than they do where I currently live.  So that's a pretty valid excuse to move, but there might be a tad bit of a "geographic" going on because of my fond memories of Massachusetts.  I still idealize it as being the place where I am most spiritually fit - and have the most fun.  Sure I'll be taking all my emotional baggage with me, but I know I'll have the best support system possible, and I have no illusions (well, ok not too many) of life being idyllic there.

In 1998 I was in a little sobriety cacoon but that, unfortunately, hasn't lasted the rest of my life.  Back then I had a singular focus but life gets complicated, doesn't it?  Nothing ever stays the same.  I guess I'd like to go back in time as well as back to Boston but obviously that won't be possible so I better prepare myself to face reality (ie. Winter).  Still, I am dying to go to all my old meetings and see my old friends and walk the old beach. I've been back plenty of times to visit but soon I'll be able to do all that whenever I want.  I am crossing every day until moving day off my calendar in anticipation.  Yay!!!


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